Mexico’s Biggest Secret–Baja

The food, the wine, the ocean, the micro-breweries, and the produce are not so secretly hiding right here. All people had to do was to really look at it, and begin to imagine what could develop. Baja has re-imagined itself and become one of the fastest growing foodie and wine destinations in the world.

Hotel Coral and Marina

No big secret that Mexico has suffered in the last few years. Between the 2008 financial crash, Mexico’s changing of the drug guards leading to increased violence, and the Swine flu, the country was hit hard. But in the last three years, like the little engine who could, tourism is creeping back–due in large part to the local’s intense focus inward. Ask anyone in the region what has recently changed, and they’ll easily tell you that when it sunk in that the economy wasn’t going to get its usual boost from tourism, locals would have to rely on themselves and the incredible gold mine of talent they’d all been taking for granted.

Those of us who know this area, almost don’t want to give the secret away. But within an easy hour and half drive south of San Diego (a beautiful drive at that), when you land in Ensenada you’ll think you’ve arrived in paradise.

With only a few luxury hotels to choose from, the property that stands out is the 15 year old, newly remodeled Hotel Coral and Marina.  Home to a boutique marina, a small but well-equipped spa, indoor and out door pools, and a newly opened restaurant, Bistro & Cava–complete with a new rock-star chef–Juan Jose Gomez.

Gomez is a veteran in the hotel business and has created a wonderfully inspired but decidedly simple, “ocean to table” menu. Offering a variety of fresh seafood, meat, and poultry prepared in surprisingly uncomplicated styles. He calls his new cuisine “Peninsular”. Using ingredients from Seattle to Baja Sur, it’s west coast inspired menu of sorts, marrying Mexican cultural cooking styles  with California.

Of the 147 rooms most are junior deluxe–and do I mean deluxe. Offering a separate living-room, bedrooms with expansive ocean views, and beautifully appointed bathrooms. Interiors are tasteful and elegant. Prices range from $175-$1,000 (for the presidential suite).

A sport fishing mecca, Ensenada is the third-largest in Baja California, called by locals as the “Cinderella of the Pacific” and within 14 miles of where over 90% of all the wines in Mexico are produced. The Valle de Guadalupe is this region’s hotspot.

Few micoclimates in Mexico combine the unique characteristics of elevation, soil, season, and temperature so perfectly as Guadalupe. Little do most “wine enthusiasts” realize, that just a few hours south of the San Diego/Tijuana border, and near the port city of Ensenada lies the Mexican vast and bountiful counterpart to Napa Valley.

This region of Mexico isn’t the more well-known destinations like the Riviera, Cabo San Lucas, San Miguel, or Puerto Vallarta, but it’s a simple and very rich area, well worth taking the time to explore.